The magic of Leaves and Lizards starts and ends with the AMAZING STAFF. The laid-back but attentive owners provide housing for most of the staff members on site. These houses dot the dirt road that runs through the property meaning the staff is always present and ridiculously responsive to guest needs. And yet they are always so happy and friendly! I have never been to a place where the staff is friendlier, happier and more eager to please. As a result, they take pride in everything they do from meal preparation, to serving as hike and horseback riding guides, to hosting the kids in the stables as they collect the eggs and milk the cows!
When we booked our trip to CR, we didn't use an agent and instead researched the locations we stayed on our own. Needless to say, our choice of Leaves and Lizards had a lot to do with the reviews on TripAdvisor since it doesn't appear in most guide books.
To put it simply: it exceeded the lofty reviews here and quelled any doubts immediately. We're a family of five (13 yo girl, 12 yo boy and 8 yo boy) and it was our kids' first real time out of the country.
We knew L&L was a little rustic, but also not the equivalent of staying in tents in the middle of nowhere. What we found were perfect amenities for a family (bathroom, kitchen, bedroom AC) but basic enough to allow us to unplug from a too-connected world.
Some great things about this place:
-Debbie and Steve (the owners) are in the dining room at breakfast and dinner, meaning they are accountable to their guests. I think most owners and managers would see this as a nuisance and a bit scary, yet Debbie and Steve seem extremely comfortable mingling with guests.
-Wifi only works at the dining hall. Yes, we can deal with telling our kids to put down a device but true pleasure is in knowing they can't ask to go on phones, an iPad, etc. We allowed them to connect at breakfast and dinner until entrees arrived and so they have 10-15 minutes to check email, status updates, kicks and other things.
-Debbie and the staff will make every arrangement for you, from transportation, to zip lining, to horseback riding to local guides for hikes. Our kids all rode their own horse for a multi-hour trek to a waterfall where we swam in the pouring rain---and loved it! Zip lining was with Mundo Adventura where guides went with our 12 and 8 year old easing any fears they had. Our local hiking guide was Donald and he was awesome! Fluent English and he knew ever animal call and could get them to answer back. We saw a sloth, monkeys, tons of birds and other animals on our hike in their natural habitat.
-Heliconia is a great family cabin with AC in the two bedrooms, a front porch with hammock chairs facing Arenal, a back porch with real hammocks facing a mini jungle with bugs, hummingbirds and even an occasional sloth sighting, full kitchen, etc.
-The open-air dining area facing Arenal is awesome with hummingbirds flying about and just a great relaxed environment.
-The meals were WAY better than I expected. The pork chop with citrus glaze, the vegetable stuffed chicken, french toast were some of my personal highlights. The eggs were fresh and delicious. Coffee was brewed table side and wines were decent. They have a five-option kids menu plus build your own pizzas. Ordering ahead (sign up by 2pm everyday for dinner) took the stress out of ordering.
-The roads in were fun but a bit bone jarring especially if you get a rental with poor shocks and struts. But we survived even the rough 9km green route in which was scenic. The red rides along hilltops with views of the volcano and valleys. Awesome and part of the fun.
-Stay longer than three nights--we didn't do hot springs and some other potential activities so you can definitely entertain yourselves for longer than we stayed. We did manage zip lining one morning and the hike in the PM.
-Rent a car so you can go into La Fortuna which is a cool little tourist town.
-We did not do the spa, so I am sure couples and friends without kids who love nature and massages would enjoy it as much as we did.
I can't imagine anyone not liking this place. It has great features for families and couples. I imagine folks used to only staying in sterile megaresorts might find it too rustic, but even the beds were not awful here. We spent the next three nights at the JW Marriott in Guanacaste and I can tell you that the difference in personal attention, staff demeanor and value was a STARK difference. L&L has them beat at 1/3 of the cost.
We'll likely go somewhere else in the world next, but if my kids and wife said they wanted to go back to L&L I would definitely do it.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- This secluded resort is located on 26 acres with spectacular viewing of the Arenal Volcano near La Fortuna. Enjoy the panoramic vista of Arenal and Cerro Chato from a hammock on your porch or from your comfortable, orthopedic, queen sized beds with Egyptian cotton sheets. Meals prepared using locally grown ingredients at the Lava Lizard on-site dining facility. Guests are invited to help with daily 'chores' on this working farm. Milk a cow, collect eggs for breakfast or groom a horse. Enjoy private horseback riding, professional guide service, on site spa and 2 km of on site nature trails. The vision at Leaves and Lizards is to create the perfect blend of adventure, discovery and tranquility for each guest. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Leaves And Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat Hotel La Fortuna De San Carlos
- Leaves And Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat Costa Rica/Arenal Volcano National Park